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THROUGH FORESTS

- Durban, South Africa @ The Loading Bay - July 2016

My work reflects the freedom I find in open landscapes and then of forests filled with mystery. In some of these, I have included photographed figures taken during a typical day in the city.  Placing these photographed images within painted forest and landscape settings create a certain magic for me, and suggests that perhaps even living within the urban space, the longing for freedom of open planes and the magic of forests persist within us. 

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Invisible Threads – 98.4

- Collaborative with Joan Martin - January, 2016

This collaborative artwork expresses the state of invisibility that each artist experiences.

Lara Mellon reacted to a statement made by a fellow artist that the Durban Arts Scene was populated by middle-aged white women and that we need younger artists. A statement like this suggests that the voice of an older artist is not valid.

Joan Martin is perceived as a confident personality yet has an invisible heart condition.

The heart shape refers to martin’s physical weakness.  The representation of her nervous Sphynx cat is symbolic of her own emotional vulnerability which is hidden from most people.

The hat shape symbolises the roles that individuals take on in society. The labels stamped into this artwork suggest societal branding.  The iconic female figure traversing the South African landscape accompanied by her faithful dog is central to Mellon’s identity.

The white gift wrap ribbon is a timeline on which significant dates and milestones are recorded.  The red thread that weaves across the surface of both shapes connects both artists but also makes reference to connections in social media.

These connections are often visible proof of existence in our contemporary world.  The red thread also makes reference to the Chinese saying: 

‘An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.”

Finally, the red shoes below each shape suggest the presence of the artist despite the absence of their physical body again questioning the state of visibility or invisibility.

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STANDING WOE-MAN

- Durban, South Africa - April 2015

My inspiration for this work was Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Standing Woman’.  I made the piece at the time of the xenophobic attacks in Durban and got to thinking how the bondage of an individual’s fear and despair (woe) can affect the community as a whole. 

Perhaps in order for us to see the whole, we need to stand back, and like Giacometti, to question and to try to find a new way of looking and translating what we see.

[1] Born in the tiny village of Borgonovo in eastern Switzerland in 1901, Giacometti chose Paris as his city of adoption. When he left Paris to visit his mother in Geneva some 20 years later, little did he know that he would end up living there from 1942 to 1945. At the time he was not authorised to return to France due to his Swiss nationality.

The period from 1935-1946 proved to be a difficult one for Alberto. Not only was it wartime, but he was also undergoing one of the longest and deepest crises of his artistic career.  "This transitional period was a major rupture in his career," said Schneider. "He loses all contact with galleries and doesn't show his work. But it's a period when he questions his work and tries to find a new way of looking and translating what he sees." During this period his work also started to reduce in size, reflecting his attempt to represent bodies and heads according to how he saw them at a distance.

"I saw nothing but countless details. To see the whole I had to push the model further and further back. The more distant the head, the more it shrank in size, something that terrorised me," Alberto commented. 
 

[1] – Geneva’s Rath Museum:  Nadia Schneider, curator of the retrospective, told swissinfo.ch. – Nov 11, 2009 

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/giacometti-and-his-geneva-crisis/1305912?ns_mchannel=ps&ns_campaign=DSA&ns_source=adw&ns_linkname=_cat:swissinfo.ch&gclid=CLLY8ujgqMUCFQcewwodsrcARQ

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WE ALL SEEK TO BE FREE

- Durban, South Africa - January 2015

Artists were encouraged to engage with the ethos of the gallery with the theme of TRANSOFORMATION-INCUBATION-ACTIVATION.  Working in mixed media on small 10x15cm formats, I responded with thirteen blocks, interspersed with small flying figures suspended on the wall in-between the blocks.  

We All Seek To Be Free

We each have our own landscape, the geography of which is determined by our own unique circumstances. We are though, all connected in some way or another. In the end we each most likely want the same thing - freedom.

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UNDERSTORY

- collaborative with Joan Martin @ KZNSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa - August 2014

Understory: a collaborative exhibition by Joan Martin and Lara Mellon.  This exhibition is not about two artists just exhibiting alongside each other, but it is a story about two artists making a conscious attempt to connect their work on more than one level.

There is a modern misconception that great visual art is only made by solitary individuals isolated in their studios, but even our great Renaissance artists worked as part of collectives; each individual working on a part of an artwork that was their specialist area, whether it was landscape, drapery or figures to create a successful painting.

Martin and Mellon, in this exhibition, have not both worked on the same product (although they have experimented with this practice in the past), but have connected in various ways to facilitate the success of this exhibition. “Understory” refers to the plant life that grows beneath the forest canopy and never really reaches its full potential. The term also suggests that there is a story beneath the obvious one. Both artists are concerned with examining their positions and lives within their immediate environment.

Visually Martin’s “understory” is populated by the inhabitants, geographical structures and features of metropolitan Durban namely the Mynah birds, geckos,

Strangler fig trees and colonial monuments. Her Sphynx cat Sam makes a regular appearance in her artworks. Mellon’s “understory” seems more rural landscape with actual photos of people whom she notices walking along our African roads. These misty landscapes captured in a dawn or dusk light often includes silhouettes of both domestic and wild animals.

Despite this difference in subject matter both artists are drawn to similar methods and materials. Both artists collect items that have been discarded or abandoned – “treasures” like rusted bottle-tops, razor-wire, old stamps, shreds of rope or found fabric; and gecko, bird and insect skeletons. Imbedding these items within the fabric of their artworks and transforming the undesirable into the desirable, by layering them into the landscape of their works using texture pastes and resin. Both artists distress their artworks by sanding (often with electric sanding machines) and burning the surfaces with heat guns. These harsh techniques has made them both shift from canvas to stronger supports, although on occasion they both work with transparent materials like Mellon’s butterfly people trapped in glass bottles and Martin’s interpretation of the Vasco Da Gama Monument: a 3x2meter stitched drawing constructed out of semi-transparent Mylar. 

To capitalize on and highlight their collaboration Martin and Mellon purposely created projects that would start up dialogue. Like the postcards that they have been hand delivering to each other; documenting ideas and thoughts over a two year period.

Each postcard responds to the visual or conceptual stimulus that the previous postcard provides. The hand delivery also ensured that they physically met on a regular basis & often these encounters would result in more prolonged visits in each other’s studios. These studio visits afforded opportunities to share ideas, techniques & often provided just a safe nest to express fears, doubt and insecurities. Both of these artists work full time at other careers; Martin is the senior art teacher at Durban Girls’ College and Lara is a Consults in the area of Reward and Perception Studies for Deloitte Consulting. They rely on each other for support, advice and encouragement when the juggling of their careers and their art becomes overwhelming.

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SILENCE OF THE LANDS

- Kloof, South Africa - June 2013

Group Show with:  Joan Martin, Lara Mellon, Maggie Strachan and Ana Pereira de Vlieg

As with previous art exhibitions at Fat Tuesday (Two Goats and a Dog - 2011, Lost Found & Stolen - 2012)this exhibition is as much about our relationship with one another as the development of our art. This time our group has been expanded by the inclusion of Ana Pereria De Vlieg.

At our initial meeting we came up with the idea of landscape as a theme. All four of us have explored landscape in one form or another in our previous artwork.

Some of our early attempts at a title for this exhibition included “Land Claims” and “Land (re)claimed” but both were rejected for their political association. We have recently settled on the title “Silence of the Lands” this was inspired by the following quote “Where the river is deepest it makes the least noise.” Lara Mellon was instrumental in coming up with this title and she says: “There’s an unsettled quietness in all our work … a peaceful threatening …”

In order to challenge each other and underline our association we decided to all approach the method of making art for this exhibition in a particular way. Each of us selects an image and shares it with the other three - specifying a particular format i.e. A4, A5 etc. We all paint from the same reference image and share the results at our regular meetings, which occur about once a month.  Each artist can submit as many versions as she wants of the same image, as long as the same reference is used.  These monthly meetings are held at Durban Girls’ College Art studio in the afternoons where informal crit. sessions are conducted.

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LOST, FOUND AND STOLEN

- Kloof, South Africa - May 2012

Our last exhibition at Fat Tuesday spoke about our methods of working as a group – finding a direct and particular response to each other’s work which became a discourse about our methods of art making and our childhood memories.  

This exhibition “Lost, Found and Stolen” is a continuation of our first theme. We revisit memories both personal and collective, things that we perceive individually and jointly from the mist, looking at places and ideas that have been abandoned and forgotten by ourselves and by society as a whole.

Through regular contact and scheduled meetings (once a month) we initially set up themes – each artist came to the meeting with a word or criteria.  Finding our way unexpectedly through these verbal and visual clues often resulted in these prompts being combined in a new context. 

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RED - SIENNA SAM

- Glenwood, South Africa - Jan 2012

During the past year we have each in our own been diverted by the demands of life, but always found our way back via our scheduled meetings and mutual support.  There are definite connections between our artworks - we often consciously and unconsciously “steal” from each other’s work. Gourbault statement is applicable: “The influences may be subliminal and subtle but all that surrounds us in some way changes how we see things and who we are.”

Dr Norman Doidge an advocate of neuroplasticity sums up the journey these artists have undertaken: “We are often haunted by important relationships from the past that influence us unconsciously in the present. As we work them through, they go from haunting us to becoming simply part of our history.”

“Red Sky at Night…” by the collaborative Sienna Sam (Joan Martin and Lara Mellon) - Jan, 2012 The inspiration for the title of this piece came from the weather-lore rhyme: Red sky at night; shepherds delight, Red sky in the morning; shepherds warning It suggests that people were more in touch with their environment unlike today where our culture has disconnected from our surroundings. In the spirit of post-consumerism we chose to work on a found surface and in a collaborative manner. Rejecting mass –produced packaged products and looking with a greater awareness of what already exists around us. Our co-operation makes reference to times when people were more aware of each other’s needs and worked towards a common goal. This piece warns about the danger of disconnecting from our environment and each other

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ART ON THE WAY

- Kloof, South Africa - October 2010

Besides my love of landscape, and increasing interest in texture, I have an immense love for people.

Vincent van Gogh was quoted as saying "The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."

My works currently reflect this, particularly in light of the everyONEcounts campaign where we as artists are joining together in a campaign to bring attention to the plight of abandoned babies, and to abandoned lives in general. 

My work took a turn from landscape painting I began painting ‘sorrowful images’ but that I found beautiful. I first believed that the works were considering the relationship between ‘sorrow and beauty’. However, I realized through the process that they were in fact about ‘sorrow and light’. Beauty requires the viewer’s consideration and perspective, whilst light exists on its own. Light represents hope, and hope in the midst of sorrow exists because of love.

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SCRATCHING SURFACES

- Umhlanga, South Africa 2009

“I am not sure what it is saying to me, but Africa Speaks” Jung: On Africa

Besides my constant interest in the African landscape and the fascination that I have with people as figures on, from and of this landscape, my works on this exhibition reflect my interest in textures, in surfaces and the ever process of mark-making.

As the title of this exhibition would suggest, the viewer is required to look beyond the immediate surface, to go beyond the first impression. In both the layering of paint and in the use of found objects and cut out images, there is a strong suggestion to look for more than the obvious.

Some of the works on exhibit will be lean towards the traditional in execution and outcome (the “Blue Skies” series), while others will reflect a more varied and ‘contemporary’ approach that I have taken.

Both have been inspired by the sometimes surreal South African landscape, and by the many people who walk, work and live along the roads that I travel on, on a daily basis. I see them ‘intimately’ … although I don’t know them personally. At first glance, there appears to be chaos and/or despair but in fact the opposite is true … street vendors systematically store, stack and sell their goods … taxies dash, hooters hoot … and in amongst discarded bottle tops and found fragile rusting tins … gold ! Treasures, gems and precious finds to those who have the time and the Hope to see, and to hear … Africa Speaks! 

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RICH TERRAIN

– Berlin 2008/2009

The creative process began for me as a child in the small mining town of Springs, on the East Rand, 60 kms east of Johannesburg, where I worked with whatever I could find. My childhood was extremely happy and my love for the earth started then as I played – mostly in the dust, in soil and mud amongst stone and rock, under trees and amongst their leaves, beneath skies and next to rivers, with friends and alone. I was indeed from, and in a Rich Terrain.

Amidst twists and turns, pebbled roads and the occasional perfect path, my adventure through life has mostly had unexpected surprises.

With my continued love for the earth and its people, I continue to explore their fragile but intimate connections - a relationship that I am exploring through my use of photo-images, oil paintings and mixed media. This concept intrigues me as I sense a lack of permanence in the images of people contrasted with timeless landscapes that seem to have no boundaries ... either way, all of what I hear, feel and see ... is a result of what I hear, what Africa says to me.

THE SA CONNECTION – London 2008

With my continued love for the earth and its people, I explore their fragile but intimate connections - a relationship that I am exploring through my use of photo-images and oil paintings. This concept intrigues me because photos, attached by magnets, can easily be moved to different points in these paintings, or even removed altogether so that I sense a lack of permanence in the images of people contrasted with timeless landscapes that seem to have no boundaries – as we do.

The photographs are intimate yet not personal and simply capture a brief, unexpected but not necessarily significant moment in time; travelling to work, busy with the tasks of the day or going home. However insignificant these moments might be, there is a connectedness of spirit that extends the limitations of the immediate ... the spirit of Hope, which gives purpose, direction and meaning to our lives.

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EARTH, LIGHT AND SPIRIT

– Durban, South Africa 2007

MATINS

Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour

I arise to day

In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
of the Soul and the Earth

I arise today

Blessed by all things
wings of breath,
delight of eyes,
wonder of whisper,
intimacy of touch,
eternity of soul,
urgency of thought,
miracle of health,
embrace of God

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love
Eternal Echoes

John O’Donohue

There is no way surely that I could express as well as John O’Donohue does in Eternal Echoes this Matins. As I try to pen down an “artist’s statement” I find myself frustrated at not being able to convey in words what would make sense to you the reader and then remember that this is why I paint.

I grapple and fumble with a multitude of words and as many an emotion that swirl within me; how do I convey to you what I struggle with myself.

In painting I find myself wrestling with the slowness with which outflows the paint from the tube. Covered in colour I work in rags so rich in hues of hot sienna’s, umbers, solemn browns and burnt oranges, and of graying whites and dying reds. I scumble, scratch and scrape and pull the paint across the canvas ever searching for tones that eventually relent and release images of faces, figures and forms that pull through to the surface from surrounding seas and lands revealing themselves but only partly … with just enough detail to reveal their spirit.

I paint and I create so that I discover the light within the dark, and the spirit, which is Hope within this time of Earth.

Lara Mellon

2007